Cary’s Heritage

Recalling Cary’s farming days

June 18, 2013 

There’s not much farm land left in Cary these days. But at one time, residents grew corn, tobacco and more – and some might have even made some moonshine.

Margaret Travis: From the 1700s, Green Level was a farming community with beautiful fields, beautiful farms. Brothers worked together in their farming. The cotton did not work well for them so they stopped raising cotton. They tried corn, tobacco, wheat and oats. They grew feed for their cattle. Tobacco was their money crop. The corn and wheat made their flour and their cornmeal, and they carried it to the mill. Summertime was a busy, busy time. They plowed with mules and horses. There were no tractors in the early days.

Raymond Johnson: We were growing tobacco and corn. When days were pretty, you’d get your plant bed dug up and sewed. About March, you would start planting your corn, get it out of the way. You’d pick at plant beds by hand to get the weeds. When the corn was green, we would pull the leaves off the corn before the frost got the leaves. The corn stalks would dry in the field. Then you would pull off the corn and put it in your bin to feed your mule, along with hay. We had to have a field to grow hay, which we harvested in early October. We had to have the barn full of hay when frost came to feed our animals over the winter.

After the tobacco allotments were cut, I started to raise chickens for their eggs. Over time, I started making my own feed for my chickens. State College gave me the formulas to work with. The main ingredient was corn, then soybean meal, meat bone meal, and vitamins. We were growing what we could of the corn, but it takes a lot to feed 40,000 chickens, so we had to buy it by the train-car load.

Charlotte Phelps: Back off of Highway 54, most of that was woods. There were some homes back there, and a girl in my Girl Scout troop lived there. Once we camped out, and then went on a hiking trail through there. We came upon some people making moonshine. They were sitting there with their little cookers going. That was scary, because we didn’t know what they were going to do. We turned around and ran and they were coming after us. We were really scared, but we got back to the road and to the cars that we came in. Then we reported it. I guess the law enforcement went down and they got rid of it. People bought moonshine back then, so they were right off of Highway 54 making it.

Cary’s Heritage was taken from the book “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, An Oral History of Cary, North Carolina.”

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